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I think the people who reviewed this film are a bit warped for thinking of it as anything less than a masterpiece. This film comes from the glorious days of Johnny Depp taking obscure roles in films and totally immersing himself in the character. Benecio Del Toro's performance was second to none, and I cannot for the life of me comprehend why someone would think this to be the "worst movie ever". God save us that we actually have to think a little when we sit in those awful theatre seats. Heaven forbid we're required to use our imagination a little bit and not have it handed to us in the form of Hollywood mindless pap. The film, del toro, Depp, and of course, Gilliam are all brilliant. I pity the fools who gave this movie a negative review and fail miserably in articulating their reasoning.
For all those of you who decry this movie for being pointless and lacking
soul, that was the point! This is an excellent movie, a true adaptation of
the book, nothing more and nothing less. It is an unflinching look at the
sickening excesses of a consumption based culture of America during the
early 1970's, who's vacuous heart resides in Las Vegas, a symbol of greed
and debauchery. The pointlessness of the movie is a metaphor for the
pointless pursuit of personal gratification and greed, the true heart of
If you put aside the usual assumptions about a movie, i.e. that you are supposed to care about the characters, that their needs to conflict and resolution etc, then you will enjoy it much better. This movie is a magical ride and actually works on many levels, not only as testimony to the horrors of excessive drug use, and the tacky, ugly view of the worst parts of America, but also to the failed 60's generation, a generation that thought that "somebody somewhere is guarding the light at the end of the tunnel". Drug use is simply a way of escaping your present reality, and all the drugged out zeroes of the sixties were truly lost if they thought that enlightenment and peace could come from a hit of acid. This movie takes Timothy Leary's supposition of "freeing your mind" to it's ultimate conclusion and the conclusion is that you are not actually freeing your mind, but destroying it.
Of course this movie is also fun to watch the incredible performances by Johnny Depp and Benitio Del Torro, both of whom I barely even recognized in their roles (Depp with a shaven head and the bloated Del Torro who gained 40 pounds for his portrayal of "Dr. Gonzo"). Del Torro has one scene in particular (the bathtub scene) which is both disgusting and very disturbing. Apparently his performance was so convincing that he had a hard time getting work after this film because everyone was convinced that he was wasted on the set. The truth is that he's just a damn fine actor who didn't hold back for one second, which is exactly what the film called for. Also the scene of Johnny Depp squealing like a banshee after imbibing some adrenocrome and Del Torro freaking out behind him is unforgettable.
The directing itself is fast paced with offseting angles a lot of wide angle lenses. Gilliam has a style which is unmistakable, it's like walking around inside of a Dali painting, everything is distorted and stretched to create a strong sense of surrealism. Yet his approach is much less offensive than Oliver Stone, who desperately throws every single filming trick at you repeatedly until you are pummeled into submission. Wow, look he switch to 8 mm, then black and white, now it's slow mo all in 3 seconds!
Anyway, I digress. This is a fine movie, don't watch it stoned, you'll get more out of it, repeated viewings are recommended. I also recommend getting the criterion DVD version, which has commentary by Gilliam, Depp, del Torro and Hunter S. Thompson himself!
'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' was originally an Article published in
two parts in Rolling Stone Magazine. It was written by Hunter S.
Thompson. It tells the story of a journalist reporting on the Mint 500
in Las Vegas.
Terry Gilliam (the Director) is an accomplished film maker who began his career as one of the members of Monty Python. He did all of their animations.
These two men on their own are incredibly clever and gifted artists in their chosen medium. What we get from this combination is one of the best films ever made. It is a more or less true story. It is a wonderful view on the warped nature of American 'Culture' from a completely askew angle. Drugs, drugs and more drugs, but instead of preaching their evils or telling you how fabulous life is when you're on acid, you get a very unbiased experienced approach to their use and abuse.
Visually the film is amazing and both Johnny Depp and Benizio Del Toro are true to the book. I couldn't possibly recommend this film more highly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is a twisted, outlandish venture into
the mind of a warped junkie, a reporter who is traveling to Nevada in
order to cover a Hells Angels motorcycle race, along with his Samoan
attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro, who gained forty pounds for his
role). "We were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to take
hold," is the line that opens the movie in an expeditious manner, as a
red convertible roars from right to left, in the direction of Las
Vegas. The vehicle's trunk is packed with an abundance of deadly drugs.
"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five
sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of
cocaine, a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers,
laughers. Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a
pint of raw ether, two dozen amyls."
The narrator of the story is Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp), a balding, stumbling shell of a man, constantly smoking or inhaling drugs, his body overloaded with deadly substances. He is in a permanent daze throughout the entire film, constantly consuming drugs every time the camera pans onto him. He is also the reporter, the main character of the film, and he is in such a daze that after the motorcycle race is over, he's not even sure who has won. So sitting cramped in his increasingly trashed hotel apartment, he begins clacking away mumbo-jumbo on his typewriter, desperately trying to make sense of the seemingly frenzied world surrounding him.
The year is 1971, the beginning of the after-effects of the frivolous sixties. Raoul still seems to think that he is living in the past decade. He explains that his carefree ways were out of place for such an area as Las Vegas, and in one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie, he visits a conference detailing the dangers of substance abuse, and inhales cocaine throughout the seminar (led by the late Michael Jeter).
The movie is based on the semi-autobiographical memoirs of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who traveled to Las Vegas in 1971 with an overweight "Samoan lawyer" named Oscar Zeta Acosta. According to Thompson's novel, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," originally published at the end of the decade, they broke many laws and were essentially high on various dangerous substances the entire time. In his novel, Thompson used the character Raoul Duke as a relation to his own past, and the pair's psychedelic weekend as a metaphor for the Lost America. After the sixties, during the Vietnam War, Americans were deeply confused, and turned to many dangerous substances for answers. Some critics claim that "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" glamorizes drugs. If anything, it demonizes them (sometimes quite literally), and the constant drug use is merely present to account for the duo's wacky behavior.
That's not to say that "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is a harmless film. Under the wrong circumstances, it could be misunderstood, which is why it was nearly slapped with an X-rating by the MPAA, and -- along with the book -- caused outrage when it was released in 1998, alongside the utter disaster "Godzilla."
Depp is the reason the film's narration succeeds as well as it does -- a lesser actor might come across as annoying. Depp seems to be channeling the physical freedom of Steve Martin and the slurred speech patterns of Thompson himself -- although he was given ample time to pick up on Thompson's mannerisms, since they spent much time together prior to shooting and throughout the filming process.
But what is essentially so fascinating about "Fear and Loathing" is its blazing style and blatant uniqueness. Brought to the screen by Terry Gilliam ("Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Brazil"), one can only expect the movie to be strange, but it is severely distorted to the point of insanity. What is even more intriguing is Gilliam's use of his camera, cinematography and backgrounds -- the camera essentially takes on the role of a third person, as it is constantly moving, positioned at awkward angles against harsh, dizzying backdrops, wallpapers and carpets. The overall effect of the movie is the equivalent of getting high -- only this probably isn't as dangerous. Probably.
In some ways, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is an utter mess of a movie -- pointless, sick, but yet it is also occasionally hilarious, and I found myself very entertained. I am not usually a fan of these sorts of movies, which only helps account for my extreme surprise in finding that I not only enjoyed "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but found it to be an important art house movie -- bizarre, mystifying, strange, bewildering. It is as if Fellini directed a Cheech and Chong movie. It is an experience unlike any other, and although I can completely understand the negative reviews it received upon its release years ago, I find myself somewhere in between the haters and the die-hard cult fans. The film was released on a Criterion DVD last year; a sign that despite its infamous background it actually has a fairly strong legion of fans. In some ways the movie is as confused and wandering as its narrator. It's somewhat pointless, but incidentally, I think that is the point.
This movie polarizes the audience like few before: while of course,
who like it and people who don't like it for any movie, 'Fear and
Vegas' either excites or almost repulses it's critics, and I dare to say
that most of the
negative responses are based on ignorance, or even fear, of introducing
experiences into mainstream culture.
Personally, i regard 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' as one of my absolute favorites, definitely in my top 10, and possibly even top 3. One of the many outstanding characteristics, besides a flawless performance from its main actors, excellent direction, and maybe the greatest achievement, one of the few literary adaptations that don't have you leave the cinema with disappointment, is the visual interpretation of the influence of LSD and other psychedelica. Though it has been tried many times, in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' it has been done in a way that in my opinion deserves an Academy Award like 'Best Visual Interpretation', were there one like that (btw, number 2 in my psychedelic charts is, interestingly, a scene from 'The Simpsons', episode 809, 'El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)', where Homer eats super-spicy chili made from Guatemalan chili peppers grown by mental patients- that causing him an incredibly accuratel realized 'trip').
Well, I guess up until now you, the reader, can guess that I am one of those that loved the movie, and think it to be a mile stone in cinematographic history, along with 'Apocalypse Now', 'Pulp Fiction' or 'The Matrix'.
I have read countless reviews of this movie that have derided it for
everything from glorifying drugs to being unchristian to being boring.
Maybe my mind works very much like director Terry Gilliam's (I loved
'Brazil' and '12 Monkeys'), but the last thing I would do to this movie is
deride it. It is a brilliant adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's
generation-defining book of the same name - it stays very faithful to the
events in the book.
First of all, this movie literally glows with Gilliam's eye for detail that he has consistently displayed throughout his career. The sets are so elaborate, one could never take in all the scenery from any number of viewings without slowing it down and watching very closely. The bombardment of the bright, flashing lights of Las Vegas and the bizarre camera angles, as well as surreal sets make for an interesting and entertaining presentation regardless of a lack of coherency and taste. What we have here is a movie riddled with black humor and a horrifying satire of the American dream. I'll admit it takes a very `unchristian' viewpoint to laugh at the `straight economics' of allowing policemen to gang-f**k a girl for $30 a head. Therefore, people bound by a constricting sense of morality should never have watched this movie in the first place. It is for people like me who enjoy living a very un-stoic life (at least vicariously through movies) by having radical ideas and perspectives forced upon them. Fear and Loathing is the embodiment of such a perspective - it is a gruesomely accurate depiction of the bi-product of the often-glorified 60's drug culture. And one thing that countless critics seem to carelessly omit in their analyses is the constant references to the `American Dream.' Johnny Depp (Raoul Duke/Hunter Thompson), in his verbose verbal narrations, makes quite a few references to a desparate hunt for reason behind the madness of not only this `American Dream', but the drug culture as well - "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." - Dr. Johnson (displayed before the opening scene). The problem with the waning popularity of this movie is simply that its design was not meant to appeal to the buttoned-down mainstream. People that want to laugh and cry in a movie theater and then get the hell on aren't the type of people that would enjoy seeing an unjustified drug-induced frenzy on Las Vegas. This movie has everything a critic should be looking for in a masterpiece - magnificent cinematography, lovely acting, shock value, provocation of thought, and a meaning behind it all. To freaks like me it also has immense entertainment value as well. This work will be one of my favorite movies of all time.
Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a psychedelic
comedy, but also an astute piece of literature-cum-political science on
a period in American history that was just really strange, thus
reflected by its creator. It was the pioneer in 'Gonzo journalism' and
sent Thompson's star even higher than it had with Hell's Angels.
Although it's one of my personal favorite books, it could have been
tricky to adapt it- Alex Cox tried and failed- but somehow Terry
Gilliam digs into the Thompson psychology, dementia, and off-the-wall
humor, while also putting his unmistakable mark on the material. Two
sensibilities thus merge, alongside the tremendous performances
(underrated, despite the praise from fans) from Depp and Del-Toro. It
asks an essential question- how does society end up crossing paths with
the outlaws? But there's more than that- much more in fact- but it
takes more than one viewing. I remember writing the first time I saw
it: "This film is so bizarre you might just want to put down the bong
and get high from this movie (after all, the movie contains every
single known drug known to man since 1544)."
Granted, it's immediate appeal is that of a midnight movie, the ultimate midnight movie, as a work where the visual style is cranked up to a queue that goes even further than past Gilliam ventures. Distorted, sometimes tilted, widescreen angles, very bright, strange colors via Nicola Pecorini, and a beating soundtrack loaded with everything from Jefferson Airplane to Tom Jones to Bob Dylan to Debbie Reynolds (what kind of rat bastard psychotic would put that on right now, at this moment)! And aside from Depp and Del-Toro, who immerse themselves to the hilt (Depp especially is in a form here comparable to his Pirates movies- you can't see anyone else play the character, and at the same time you almost can't recognize him, a credit to Depp's 'method' style), there's hilarious supporting work from Craig Bierko, Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton (Castration!), and Christina Ricci, and even an extremely moving and dangerous scene with Ellen Barkin.
It's not an easy film, to be certain, and it will likely appeal to those who may think 'ah, drugs, I like drugs, must be my kind of movie'. But it's not that simple; it's actually fairly critical of drug use, in an overblown, Fellini-esquire satirical manner (eg Adrenochrome, which is a tiny landmark of gonzo film-making to complement the author), and there really is no point where Gilliam, Thompson or the characters say 'take drugs'. On the other hand, there is also a critical attitude, a refreshing and brilliant one, on authority, like at the DEA convention at the hotel- again, strange times in society. At the same time the film is superb as escapist fun, in the darkest and craziest ways that only a maverick like Gilliam and his people can pull off, it's also got some layers in the substance, of Duke and Gonzo almost as relics from a former era already in 1971. With consistently quotable dialog, excruciating moments of depravity, and some of the most outrageous production design in any film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an unlikely cult classic, and in its own delirious fashion a possible definitive work from the director alongside Brazil.
It's hard to describe how good this movie is without sounding sycophantic
but it really is that good. This film is based on the "true" story of when
the notorious reporter Hunter S. Thompson and his then attorney Oscar Zeta
Acosta went to Las Vegas to cover a bike race for rolling stone magazine but
instead spent the entire trip going out of their minds on various illegal
and legal chemicals. This may sound like a one trick pony for stoners and
60's throwbacks but I am neither and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Very
few films based on books manage to tell the story or capture the spirit of
the original but F&L certainly manages both. The story sticks closely enough
to the book without alienating the books fan base but also trims out the
right areas so that the film doesn't become overly long and uninteresting.
The film is still fairly long, compared with most popcorn fare, at around 2hrs and does sag a little in places but the pace quickly picks up again. The performances are absolutely spot on with Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro virtually becoming their characters. Both are heavily disguised under make-up but their acting ability shines through. On first viewing I wasn't that impressed, it was a good film but not a great film, but after a second viewing I fell in love with it. You notice things and pick up on gags the second time around that you missed the first time. You immerse yourself in their world so much that you feel like you were there with them on the "trip" in both senses of the word. I have shown this film to most of my friends and they also have become hooked after viewing the film twice, it's such a shame that this great film works like this as I'm sure there are many people who are unwilling to give it the second chance it deserves. If you haven't seen this film I suggest you do and if you don't like it see it again. If you have seen this film and didn't like it, see it again.
Love it so much it hurts. There are so many great lines, and moments. To many to count. Johnny Depp should have received an Oscar for it. His performance is nothing short of genius. I know there never will be, but a sequel would rock. Benicio Del Toro takes a great turn as the disturbed side-kick. I wonder if his character could even tell the difference between sobriety and being high. All of the cameos are a nice treat, especially the Flea one in the bathroom, " I s-p-i-l-l-e-d L-S-D o-n m-y s-h-i-r-t..." Tobey Maguire has a great scene as well, he actually looks quite believable as the sickly albino guy. I'd say it's nothing short of incredible.
This is far from your everyday movie, and only for those with a deep
appreciation for the diversity of film-making, or fans of Hunter S.
Thompson. This does not mean those mentioned will enjoy it, although
definitely respect the attempt. I personally found it fascinating. To
portray a permanently drug induced state to the big screen was done
with creativity and subtle humour. You could expect nothing less from
director Terry Gilliam who has played such a massive role in the
brilliant and original Monty Python works.
Having never read any of Hunter S. Thompson's work, I get the impression that justice is done for the adaptation to the big screen. An absolutely quality cast must be credited for this, ensuring a natural performance is achieved. Las Vegas which features strongly throughout the movie seems to be so appropriate when dealing with this subject matter, they just seem to go hand in hand.
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